The Indianapolis Colts host the Baltimore Ravens in the second preseason game of the season on Saturday. This time around, the Colts are expected to play all of their healthy starters to get a better idea of what this team is going to look like.
The Colts, fresh off a dramatic preseason win in Buffalo, head home to host the Ravens in Week 2 of the preseason. Andrew Luck is expected to make his preseason debut and the Colts will get an idea of where he’s at mentally and physically in a real game situation. The Ravens aren’t expected to play Joe Flacco this week (if at all in the preseason) as he continues to recover from an ACL injury sustained last year.
Luck and other key starters are expected to play a few series, and coach Chuck Pagano hinted he’d be in the game for roughly a quarter or slightly more. The Colts offense will be at close to full strength, but there’s no word on whether or not Frank Gore will play this week. He seems to go with the Edgerrin James approach to these exhibition games and simply sits them out.
What to watch for:
- The Rust. Andrew Luck hasn’t suited up for a game since mid-November last year. That’s nine months of rust he’s going to have to try to knock off on Saturday. The Colts kept him out of last week’s game vs the Bills (likely due to the conditions and opposing coaches over zealous nature). I don’t buy the narrative that Jim Irsay is afraid to play Luck right now. We’ve seen plenty of teams not play their starting QB during the preseason so far, like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If Luck gets hurt again, this team will be looking at a top five draft pick in 2017.
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- Run game. The Colts need something resembling an effective ground game this season. For one, to take the pressure off Luck and two to make the play action respectable. Unfortunately it won’t get much easier this week as the Ravens ranked 12th in run defense efficiency last year (the Bills were 30th). Pagano has long committed to the run game, despite the team not being built for it. They’ll have to get more creative with their formations as this really isn’t a power run team. The Colts should opt instead to run out of more spread formations heading forward.
- Wide receiver depth. As we spoke about earlier this week, the Colts are awfully thin at receiver. They need someone to step up behind Phillip Dorsett on the depth chart. Quan Bray will likely make the roster, but he’ll be used more as a return man than receiver. Chester Rodgers was the only one to make a big play last week, shrugging off a defender for a 57 yard touchdown. But he had just one other catch for six yards. While this might not seem like a pressing need, for a team that always deals with a plethora of injuries, they need all the depth they can get.
- Inside linebacker depth. With Sio Moore out due to bad hamstring injury, it will give other players an opportunity to make an impression with the Colts. This is a rough injury as Moore felt like a good balance to D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebackers. Now, Nate Irving will have the inside track on getting the starting spot and were left with a number of question marks behind him. Edwin Jackson made an impression last week, leading the team in tackles, while Curt Maggitt recorded three tackles for a loss. Josh McNary also had a few splash plays, including a sack. The Colts have a number of options at this position, and we’ll have a better idea of who will make the cut after this week.
- Pass rush. Always the pass rush. Robert Mathis might get a few snaps this week, but the Colts really don’t need him on the field in the preseason. Last week the team came away with a pair of sacks and a couple more QB hits, but the pressure was inconsistent. The reliability of anyone beyond Mathis is questionable at best on this roster. There is clearly some talent, but it remains to be seen if anyone will really step up.Once the defensive line is healthy (and back from suspension), expect a surprising amount of pressure from that unit. That said, this season will likely be a group effort, even with Mathis in the mix and at full strength.
The Colts square off against the Ravens on Saturday night with kickoff scheduled for 7:00pm. The game will be broadcast on NFL Network outside of the market cities.